Guide to Being a Landlord #5: Landlords' and Tenants’ Rights and Duties

FirstService Residential
March 24, 2016

If you have purchased or are considering venturing into the investment and ownership of the very stable asset class of residential rental real estate, professional property management becomes critical. This holds true for purpose built multi-family buildings as well as an individual owner-investor of a condominium unit or single-family home.

There is considerable federal, provincial and municipal legislation governing a residential rental property. Some, but not all of these are: The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA),WorkSafe BC, The Privacy Act, Human Rights Code, The Real Estate Services Act (RESA) ,The Personal Information Protection Act, The Strata Property Act along with a multitude of Municipal Building Codes and By-Laws.

Under The Residential Tenancy Act, both landlords and tenants have very specific rights and responsibilities in a tenancy. Property managers are all licensed under the Real Estate Services Act, which involved comprehensive study in many fields of law, construction, human resources and contract management. A licensed property manager works to protect the landlord’s interests in ensuring that all Residential Tenancy Act Rules and Regulations are followed and that the covenants in the Residential Tenancy Agreement are strictly adhered to. The terms and conditions of the Tenancy Agreement are very specifically dictated by the act down to the wording and clauses that may or may not be used.

Resolving Disputes

A landlord and tenant are always encouraged to resolve any disagreements before they become bigger issues and before the matter is ever brought before a Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator. Professional property management involvement is essential in helping clarify issues on site for building staff and tenants to help resolve disagreements or misunderstandings. Excellent Rental property managers are able to quickly resolve issues to the satisfaction of both parties.

Any disputes that cannot be resolved must be directed through dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch. When an Application for Dispute Resolution is submitted to the Residential Tenancy Branch a formal legal process begins. Neither the landlord nor tenant is required to be represented by legal counsel. Residential tenancy issues do not generally involve courts or the police.

In order to avoid disputes in the first place, it is well worth both the landlord and tenant to have an in depth understanding of the Residential Tenancy Act. A property manager works to educate building staff to ensure the tenancy agreement is enforced and that the landlord’s rights and asset are protected and to ensure that they do not overstep the tenant’s rights and thereby put the landlord at the risk of liability or stain the reputation of the landlord. The property manager will often call the tenant’s attention to government resources that will help them understand their rights and obligations.

In simplified terms, some of the basic obligations of the tenant are to:

  • Pay rent and all other fees on time;
  • Maintain reasonable health and sanitary standards within the rental unit and the residential property as a whole;
  • Ensure that they and/or their guests do not damage the property, do not disturb neighbours within the building or neighbouring property or endanger the life and safety of others;
  • Adhere to all covenants in the Residential Tenancy Agreement including any reasonable additional terms and addendums that may be included;
  • Carry tenant’s insurance. Even though a tenant may think they do not own a lot, if a catastrophic loss occurs, the landlord has no responsibility for the tenant’s belongings or alternative housing; and
  • Make themselves available for the move-in condition and move-out condition inspection process.

In turn for fulfilling the obligations above, the tenant has a multitude of rights bestowed upon them by the Residential Tenancy Act:

  • The tenant will have expectations that the landlord will protect all personal information collected regarding the tenancy and that the landlord will comply with the Personal Information Protection Act;
  • The tenant cannot be discriminated against based on race, place of origin, religion, marital or family status, physical or mental disability, age or legal source of income. The landlord must comply with Section 10 of The Human Rights Code;
  • If the landlord decides to sell the individual unit or they wish themselves or a family member to occupy the unit, the tenant has the right to receive at least a full two calendar month notice of the intent along with one full month of rent as compensation for the termination of tenancy. If the tenant vacates under the above terms and the landlord does not, at the end of the day, sell or move into the premises, there can be financial penalties to the landlord for non- compliance;
  • A landlord must respond to emergencies as defined in the Residential Tenancy Act or alternatively allow the tenant to make and pay for emergency repairs and withhold that portion of the rent as a reimbursement; and
  • The landlord must provide quiet enjoyment to tenants maintaining reasonable privacy, freedom from disturbance and exclusive possession of the rental unit.

How a Professional Property Manager Can Help

Under the Real Estate Services Act, anyone who performs any of the following services for your rental property must either be a professional property manager licensed under the act, a family member or an employee of the ownership of the property (caretaker exemption):

  • Collecting rents or security deposits from tenants;
  • Making payments to third parties;
  • Negotiating or entering into contracts;
  • Supervising employees or contractors;
  • Managing landlord and tenant matters; and/or
  • Showing and renting real estate to prospective tenants.

A professional property manager can mitigate operating and capital costs by managing contracts and projects with care and diligence. The professional property manager will generally perform all duties which should be done in the course of responsible and prudent ownership and management of the property. Some of the many duties include:

  • Advertising and showing upcoming vacant units;
  • Thorough tenant screening;
  • Managing and supervising all tenant requirements;
  • Collecting and recording all rents and revenues;
  • Annual financial planning and monthly financial reporting;
  • Representing the landlord for all Residential Tenancy Branch matters;
  • 24-hour emergency response service;
  • Managing insurance and insurance claims; and
  • Offering expertise in local marketplace rents and changes in legislative requirements.

It can be most rewarding for an investor to own residential rental real estate, be it a single condo, a whole rental building or a single family home. The details and tasks are many, but when managed on a daily basis by a professional property manager, a stable and safe asset is ensured for the years to come.

Next time: Documentation and move-in day

FirstService Residential
FirstService Residential in British Columbia is a subsidiary of FirstService Corporation, a global leader in the rapidly growing real estate services sector, one of the largest markets in the world. As the leading property management company in North America, FirstService Residential oversees more than 6,500 residential and commercial associations including 1.5 million residential units and over 50 million square feet of commercial space across three provinces in Canada and 21 U.S. states. The company has more than 12,000 employees driving local market expertise and manages in excess of $6 billion in annual budgets.